SCMM-2016 – A Quick Update on Quantity and Quality

*Net Finish Times slower than 6:15 are ignored for the Full

The number of participants in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon went up again this year. The aggregate performance of those who crossed the finish line improved again for the half marathon. Given that the half marathon is where the bulk of the race population focuses, that’s heartening to see. For the full marathon, the worsening we had seen last year, became further worse this year. It is not unlikely that the increased worsening in finish times is driven by the large number of new entrants, but given that the number of entries has been increasing every single year, to blame the newbies for the recent worsening is unjustifiably unfair without delving into the details. Incidentally, You can also see my earlier report on what happened between 2010-2014.

I will be chatting with you again soon about some interesting findings related to Indian recreational distance runners, but in the interim, I thought it would be good to provide you with this flash update.

And, before I go, I’d like you to think about this question and let me know your response:

The same person running the same race, a year apart, what percentage of runners would have improved their timings?

I’d like you to close your eyes for a few seconds and make a guess yourself. Then click on your choice and submit a response in the poll below please.

*Net Finish Times winsorized at 6:15 (Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon)
*Net Finish Times slower than 6:15 are ignored for the Full


Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.


  1. I’m very interested to see field-wide analysis like this, Puru. Thanks for taking the time to compile these stats, and I look forward to seeing subsequent updates.

    There are a few points I would like to flag (you’ve very likely considered these):

    1) When you say “It is not unlikely that the increased worsening in finish times is driven by the large number of new entrants, but given that the number of entries has been increasing every single year, to blame the newbies for the recent worsening is unjustifiably unfair without delving into the details”.

    Quite so, and there are a variety of details to consider. You appear to be looking at the total field of runners. Have you looked into splitting the timings by gender? In running as a whole, female finishing times are on average slower than male. If the proportion of the field that is female increases year on year (which would be great!) this could contribute to average finishing times slowing down.

    2) Looking at the finishing time in consecutive years for the same runner – as you mention – would be an informative way to measure how running times are developing. Of course, some caveats about systematic bias are needed here too. Different climate / temperature (even a couple of degrees) can have a big distorting effect. Changing the route (as for the HM 2016 vs 2015) might have an impact.

    Moreover, if you can categorize this analysis by age group that would be especially interesting. For runners aged 60+, say, you would expect the extra year to naturally lead to intrinsically slower times (in a way you wouldn’t expect for runners aged under 30, say).

    3) I presume all your analysis is based on finishing times, and so the runners that DNF are not included? Trends in the proportion of DNFs might yield information.

    4) Most importantly, what are the particular questions you are trying to answer? If you are looking for trends in the “health” of Indian recreational distance running (I infer that you are from this article…it’s certainly the key question that interests me), then I would argue that looking at absolute numbers rather than just averages is important too.

    What do I mean? Well, at a crude level the total number of finishers gives a clear measure of distance running in India (and the trends are happily broadly positive).

    But moreover, I would be particularly interested to see, say, the trends in the absolute number of runners who completed the full marathon in sub 4 hours, and correspondingly completed the half marathon in sub-1:55 (which according to race time predictors like this one is analogous to a sub-4 FM:

    These times are intrinsically achievable for a large proportion of healthy male adults, but moreover to achieve these times you will generally have had to have committed to a training regime over some period of time. Hence it’s indicative of the number of very committed distance male runners. (The times would need scaling up separately for female runners).

    As you say, having a broad field and newbies (which is good!) running slower times will pull the average down. This of course doesn’t mean that running is going backwards in India.

    Keep up the great work, and I look forward to seeing your future analysis.


    • Dear Philip

      As usual, the comments, queries and questions from you are awaited eagerly – so thanks again for these. The points you have raised have all been on my mind. The problem with presenting too many results is that the bulk of readers will miss even simple messages. I have done the stratification before (for the 2010-2014 period in the earlier article I referred to). My next blog (please wait for a few days) will answer some more of your questions. I think you will absolutely LOVE that next article. Do get your friends (even in England) to fill in my poll (single question) at the bottom of this article).

      Thanks again



  2. Puru, a major reason for improvement seen in Half Marathon time could be due to the cut-off times imposed for participation. The number of Bib’s available without time has remained same – so it can be concluded that citrus peribus, HM times will see a drop


    • Dear Amar

      I have a very educated response to your statement (backed by data) but I will refrain from stating this until my next article. In the meanwhile, do get that brain into gear and answer the question at the bottom of the article (takes 10 seconds). And do get your running friends to do the same. It will help me help the running community a lot.

      Thanks again



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